Have you ever looked around your house or workspace and thought, “Where did all this stuff come from?!”

Sometimes it feels like clutter just appears out of nowhere, doesn’t it?

It could be the mounds of laundry that’s accumulating in your closet, the piles of toys scattered all over your living room, the stacks of dishes that are towering in the sink, the mountains of boxes in the garage, or the hills of bills, mail, and paperwork that are covering your desk.

But the truth is all of that stuff didn’t just appear one day out of nowhere.

Somewhere along the way we allowed it into our lives. It probably seemed like a good idea at the time, and maybe it was, but now it’s weighing us down.

At the place I work there’s a computer that a lot of us use for weekly presentations that runs really slow. It’s not that it gets used a lot (usually just a couple of times each week), it’s that it has so much stuff on it that it’s having a hard time doing what it’s supposed to do.

We keep adding stuff to it but never take anything off. The digital clutter keeps piling up, slowing this machine down, and keeping it from doing what we all need it to do.

Clutter has a tendency to do that. Whether it’s the clutter in our house, at our work, or on our schedule it slows us down, weighs us down, and keeps us from doing the things that bring us the greatest joy and meaning in our lives.

But there always seems to be an influx of more. Whether it’s another meeting we need to attend at work, another project we need to help our kids with at school, emails, texts, social media updates, or even gifts from family and friends it seems like there’s always something else that we need to add to our life.

So what do we do to keep the clutter from consuming our life and strangling our soul?

Before you add something to your life it’s usually a good idea to remove something from your life.

Before you accept that next meeting invitation at work, ask yourself if this is something you really need to be at. If it is, what other meeting or project are you going take off your schedule to make room for it?

Before you buy that new gadget, what old gadget are you going to give away, sell, or throw away?

Before you put that box of stuff in the garage what box of stuff are you going to get rid of to make room for it? (or maybe it’s better to just get rid of both of those boxes altogether).

What clothes are you going to donate to make room for the new clothes that you’re thinking of buying?

What are your kids going to stop doing to make room for that part time job or after school activity that they want to take part in? (Hint: It shouldn’t be homework or family time).

What are you going to stop doing so you can volunteer or join that group? (just make sure it’s not taking too much time away from your family).

What are you going to stop doing so you can start spending more time with your family?

Each one of us has limits. Our time is limited. Our income is limited. And the spaces that we work and live in our limited. We shouldn’t ignore these limits; rather we need to embrace them as guardrails to keep us healthy and sane.

Just like we’ve piled on too much stuff on that computer I mentioned earlier we’re in danger of piling too much stuff on ourselves. Don’t allow clutter to crush you. Take steps today to remove it by asking, answering, and acting on your answers to these two questions:

What am I going to get rid of so I will have space for this?

What am I going to stop doing so I can start doing this?

Don’t add something to your life without subtracting something from your life.

You’ll be glad you did.


4 thoughts on “Before You Add, Subtract

  1. Very well stated. I really like the comment on managing time. What are we going to give up in order to do the next thing?

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